Serpent’s Tail, Nov 4 2014, $14.95
In 1967, Le Monde reporter Juliette Blanc researches the 1913-14 filming of Petite Mort at Pathe studios in Paris. Before even the director could see the movie in its entirety, the studio burned to the ground with everything including the silent film destroyed. However, a housewife in Vincennes cleaning out her basement recently found a copy of Petit Mort but someone mysteriously deleted a critical sequence from the middle.
Juliette interviews the silent movie’s star Adele Roux; who, in that same fatal year after the film was completed but never released before being lost to the inferno; was embroiled in a notorious homicide trial. Adele explains special effects creative genius André Durand hired her as a seamstress; but also tells the journalist about her affairs as a naive teenager with him and his beautiful but volatile wife Terpsichore the actress.
Petit Mort is a fascinating metafictional drama that uses a 1967 find of a lost movie to tell the story of what happened in 1913-14 and the backstory of the triangle (similar technique to that used by Raymond Benson in The Black Stiletto thrillers). Although there are too many subplots and at times an overwhelming Cecil B. DeMille-size cast especially in the past, readers will enjoy this interesting look at the birth of the French film industry.